This Wisconsin McDonald's Just Broke A 'Pay It Forward' Record

Back in 2000, Haley Joel Osment starred in the movie "Pay It Forward" in which his character comes up with an idea. If he helps three people who he believes need it and then asks them to help another three people each, it would create a system of people helping people. And before you know it, whole communities would benefit. The movie is heartwarming as the school and community rally around working together. Paying it forward isn't just a nice idea for a movie. For some organizations, it has worked really well.

In drive-thru "pay it forward" schemes, the concept relies on a chain of drivers buying each other meals. A Wisconsin McDonald's has been running one that recently made headlines. The Journal Times reported that the fast food chain's Union Grove location serves approximately 900 people daily and had previously managed to get a chain of 15 people who paid it forward to one another. But that record has been broken.

To break or not to break the chain

The Union Grove McDonald's reported a record-breaking 23 cars in the drive-thru each paying it forward to the car behind them. Employee Sharlene Wincek said, "It gave me excitement to see that there's still positivity out here being spread," per the Journal Times. Customer John Carnick said, "It makes me feel good. You know, maybe somebody's not having a great day or they're down on their luck and you're helping them out."

While the staff and customers who participated in the project felt good about the outcome, Newsweek pointed out that some reports suggest the "pay it forward" system can make things harder for staff to keep track of which order belongs to which customer. There's also the dilemma of when a customer in the chain can't afford to pay it forward. In instances where this has occurred in the past, people have been belittled for breaking the chain. A former Starbucks barista suggested if customers needed to break the chain, they could offer a tip to the barista as a way of paying it forward.

However, Wincek told the Journal Times that she doesn't try to make people feel like they have to participate and acknowledged that some wouldn't be able to afford it. The Union Grove McDonald's drive-thru can move slower when customers pay it forward, but shift manager Autumn Russell thought it was "wonderful" that "people want to help each other out."